ATHLETICS: THE Olympic flame may be burning in Athens next summer, but the centre of the universe as far as sportshall athletics is concerned is Frodsham.
That's because the man who invented the revolutionary activities for youngsters, now officially known as International Fun and Team Athletics (IFTA), is George Bunner who lives in the town.
The 70-year-old president of the Cheshire County Athletics Association is busier than ever promoting his brainchild all over the world and he has just seen his book, PaceSetter - Working with Young Athletes, published for the second time. It was first written when he was in hospital in 1991 and he has finally got around to bringing it up to date.
Among other things, the 200-page book explains how to translate the Olympic dreams of youngsters into enjoyable competition; how to create a safe environment for the fun and games; how to make coaching and leadership appear casual as opposed to a rigid regime; how to retain interest over time and how to organise indoor competition for different age groups.
Bunner invented sportshall athletics because he felt sorry for youngsters like Paula Radcliffe, who was introduced to running in Frodsham, having to train in cold and wet conditions during the winter.
He dreamed up various running, jumping and throwing activities and got his friend George Uren to manufacture the necessary equipment at a unit in Northwich, from where it is now exported all over the world.
Bunner, who received the MBE for his services to young people in athletics, has just returned from a lecture tour of Canada where he was reunited with his son, Ivan, who runs the IFTA office in Toronto.
'We are very excited about what is happening in Canada, but there are lots of things going on all over the world,' he said.
'It is also good to know that IFTA has created jobs for people.'
Always a team player, Bunner, the 1950 AAA junior 880-yards champion, recognises the support he had in getting sportshall athletics off the ground from legendary athletics commentator and coach Ron Pickering, whose widow, Jean, continues to aid the Sportshall Athletics Association.
'There are lots of people involved in this, like Sara Birkinshaw who helped me with the book,' he added, 'and my colleagues in our Frodsham office, Amanda Derbyshire and Adam Burgess. PaceSetter - Working with Young Athletes is published by IFTA and costs £15. E-mail to email@example.com for details of how to order. Special rates are available for quantities of purchases for clubs and other approved organisations.